Polysemy by Catherine Pritchard Childress

My mother is a two-story Victorian
restored to original, then rented
to a family of five.

       A concrete goose,
dressed in seasonal sweaters,
waving from the front porch,

Store signs that read 
God Don’t Like Ugly.
Bait. Knives. Jesus Is Coming. 

Sometimes my mother is a cloistering Maple
hiding heaping hulls of pop-up campers
and littered yards just beyond the bridge.

Sometimes Tootsie Rolls or gospel tracts 
thrown from beds of pick-ups, tractors,
vintage convertibles, and from horseback.

Tent Revivals. Youth Revivals. 
The full bloom of Rhododendron 
and Decoration Day graves in June. 

She’s the web of ridges that thread
every holler to every creek—
Dark, Sugar, Sinking, Roaring . . . 

A five a.m. mountaintop sunrise
heaping the sky with dish, dish, dish 
of banana pudding, peach cobbler, creamsicle fudge

Mostly, she’s a roadside field burned 
to dry dust with a promise
that Echinacea, asters, and yarrow will thrive.

Catherine Pritchard Childress lives in the shadow of Roan Mountain in East Tennessee where she teaches writing and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, The Cape Rock, Appalachian Heritage, and other journals, and have been anthologized in The Southern Poetry Anthologies, Volumes VI and VII. Her poetry collection is Other (Finishing Line Press, 2015).

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